an interview series with the contributor Authors of World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction
In our final interview for the Series, we share our conversation with contributor Author, Robert Tonar, whose short story Blood and Gore is featured in the newly-launched Anthology.
Rashmii Bell: Can you remember the first speculative fiction story you read that made you think “ I have to write something like this!”?
Roberta Tonar: There are many great speculative fiction stories that have been written by incredible authors but my favorite speculative fiction book that I have read is American God’s by Neil Gaiman. Although the characters and plot are not similar in my story, I loved the idea of mixing supernatural characters and humanoid animals with ordinary people. I also gained a lot of inspiration from a film, which was screen written by Derek Kolstad, who created the John Wick franchise. I personally love the screenplay and movie so after binge watching the movie for at least 100 times, I had to write something like that but with a PNG twist!
RB: World Beyond’s callout for submissions centred on promoting our (Papua New Guinean) stories alongside and within emerging literary traditions/movements such as Black and Pacific futurism. Are there specific authors or books, especially from PNG, from which you’ve drawn inspiration to write in this genre?
RT: I’ve always believed that Papua New Guinea is a superstitious country that accommodates a handful of myths and legends which have been orally shared by our ancestors. In “Blood and Gore”, I imagined that the world we live in is actually split into two separate worlds, one that is seen with our naked eyes and the other world is the spiritual world. A world filled with creatures that are both unique and humanoid like who are capable of doing both good and evil. These creatures and the spiritual world in general are hidden from plain sight, they can only be seen if, a creature shows itself or if a human consumes a special pill which enables them to view and interact in the spiritual world.
The speculative element in Blood and Gore, consists of the supernatural and the distinct separation that the humanoid creatures and ordinary people have.
RB: Speculative fiction gives you the ability to create worlds not found in our current reality. How did you set about imagining ‘Papua New Guinea’ as presented in your story, and what is the ‘speculative’ element that readers are introduced to?
RT: Sangumas. Sangumas are the main creatures that my story revolves around. I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of a bloody, gritty and uncomfortable Sanguma story when growing up. I hope that when readers complete the story they will reflect back on the stories that have heard about sorcerers or flesh eating creatures.
I would love to see an upcoming writer tell a tale about witches along the coast of Milne Bay or sirens enchanting fishermen in the serene waters of Namatanai, perhaps even werewolves slumbering in the misty valleys of Western Highlands.
RB: In your view, who is the greatest science fiction or fantasy hero (or villain), and will readers get to see elements/ any of their traits through characters in your story?
RT: To be honest, each character in the story were crafted with care and they are all awesome in their own ways but personally, I think Ikarius is a great character (some may disagree). He is very calm, cunning and witty which is an interesting character trait and he’s definitely a, “book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover” type of person.
RB: What’s next for you; do you have any speculative fiction or writing projects underway?
RT: I’m currently working on a speculative fiction short story and a few other stories as well (mostly in the children’s thriller/horror genre). Hopefully, they’ll be available for readers soon.
Read Blood and Gore by Roberta Tonar in World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, complied and edited by Kirsten McGavin.
Available for purchase below.